A few days ago, I raised the issue of punishment, in the hope that I'd receive some further memories from men about their experience as boys. The response I'm posting today is a reminder that no more than a few words are needed to condense a complex blend of thought, profound reflection and feeling, subtle analysis and judgment into a story that says a lot about how a small boy is confronted with the cruelly arbitrary quality of rules and their insensitive application by the adult world. The understatement tells us more, and more intensely, than might a much longer piece of prose. It also reminds us that truly hurtful punishment can take a more subtle form than the cane or the angry reprimand. Reading these words, and remembering our own encounters with arbitrary authority at an early age, we understand in our hearts and minds far more than what is actually told.
The author requests anonymity. Here's his story:
At summer camp, 4 years old. I go to visit my sister, in the girls' camp adjacent. Not supposed to do that, and I am "caught" and told I cannot go to visit her without telling the counselor in advance that I will be there. I say I understand, and immediately announce that I am going to see her. Permission is denied; I cannot see my sister; and I cannot understand how to use the rules. Three punishments in one declaration.
A FOOTNOTE: Please... more stories about punishment!